Activities for Caregivers of Older Adults

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
02/23/24  12:00 PM PST
Differences between dementia and Alzheimer's

While routines and schedules are beneficial for both caregivers and seniors, fresh activities can bring new life to your time spent together. There are plenty of crafts, food activities, and games that can be modified to accomodate people of all abilities. Activities such as game play stimulate the mind in beneficial ways. Game play brings a wide range of benefits, including boosting memory and concentration, improving mental health, nurturing creativity, and relieving stress. Most games can easily be modified to suit the physical and cognitive abilities of the people playing.

Many older adults lose the ability to engage in activities they once loved. If you aren’t already familiar, take some time to explore what the seniors in your life loved to do when they were younger. While some experiences may be difficult to recreate, with imagination and creativity you can bring back the enjoyment of many forgotten activities.


The art of crafting is enjoyed by everyone from toddlers to seniors. Before planning out your activities, ask your senior what kinds of outings they enjoyed when they were younger. If you learn that they enjoyed the beach, for example, explore inexpensive crafts with shells, colored glass, sand, and other beach-associated items. Making ornaments, painting picture frames, accessorizing everyday household items, or crafting wreaths are easy ways to start. A craft store or dollar store will often carry inexpensive crafting materials. You can also carry a bag with you to collect craft materials on outdoor walks, such as pinecones, leaves, or interesting sticks or rocks. Some other craft ideas include:

  • Painting clay pots. Painting terra cotta pots requires only paint, pots, and imagination. If for any reason you are not able to use a breakable pot, plastic or metal pots are reasonably-priced alternatives.
  • Creating a bookmark. This can be a fun activity for anyone who enjoys reading and is a simple starter project.
  • Making centerpieces. From a few flowers in a vase to a more complicated art piece, centerpieces can be immensely enjoyed by everyone in the family.
  • Arranging flowers. This activity is ideal for seniors who already have and/or enjoy a flower garden. If they are willing to take fresh cuts from the garden, you can avoid the cost of purchasing flowers from a store.

Food Activities

Some seniors have difficulties cooking, but there are a variety of food-related that activities caregivers and seniors of all abilities can enjoy together. These activities include:

  • Making a cookbook together. Ask your senior if they had any recipes they would like to keep in writing. Help them create a cookbook online for their family and friends.
  • Creating artful fruit (fruit carving). This activity involves cutting fresh fruit into artful shapes. Strawberry flowers, for example, are easy to make and enjoyable to eat. Here is a video tutorial on how to create a strawberry rose.
  • Baking mini pizzas. This activity is flexible enough to fit almost any budget. From fresh dough to a storebought english muffin or bagel, choose the base that best fits your situation. Toppings can be shopped for together at a farmers market, picked from the garden, frozen, canned or fresh. If your senior no longer uses a full-sized oven, a simple toaster oven can easily cook a mini-pizza.
  • Baking together. Breads, cakes and other sweets have several steps in the cooking process that allow for an unsteady hand (stirring batter or kneading dough for example.) The scents of baking are ideal for bringing back memories, and decorating cakes and cookies with icing or other toppings can be an artful – and delicious – conclusion to the activity.


No matter how old we are, we never really lose our childlike love of games. Games can stimulate the brain, produce new brain cells, boost memory and concentration, nurture the imagination, relieve stress, and encourage socializing and bonding. Most games can be easily modified to suit the abilities of the players. In addition to the games listed below, other game-style activities include:

  • Identifying leaves. This activity involves going on a walk either through the neighborhood or at a local park. Bring a book to identify plants and trees, and take turns identifying foliage and sharing interesting facts about the plant or tree. If local laws allow it, you can also collect leaves as you go for craft activities.
  • Name that Tune. If your loved one loves music, this game can also trigger long-term memories. Play a tune, and have them guess the song title and musician/band name. If they get the song right, ask them if they have any memories that involve this particular song.
  • When was it invented? Pick some common household items and take turns guessing when it was invented. Create a points scale for the most accurate guesses, and then research when, where, how and why these items were originally invented (try for quick answers). Learn interesting tips and facts along the way!

Puzzle Games

  1. Jigsaw puzzles stimulate the mind, reduce blood pressure, and boost visual-spatial skills, memory and logic. Choose from a wide range of difficulty levels and designs to match your ability. Some puzzles are designed specifically for people living with dementia.
  2. Ubongo is an abstract, competitive puzzle game that involves using tetris-style interlocking shapes to cover a player’s board. It can be played by two to four players and adjusted to meet the abilities of the players.
  3. Tic-tac-toe is a simple but challenging paper-and-pencil game that has been around for 3,000 years. In a three-by-three empty grid, two players take turns marking the spaces with their chosen symbol: X or O. The first person to create a row of three matching symbols wins.

Classic Board Games

  1. Chess and Checkers use logic and strategy as you work to beat your opponent. Both games have been shown to improve focus, concentration, and memory.
  2. Scrabble is a great game for word-lovers and can be expanded to include multiple languages. Play with two to four people and boost your vocabulary at the same time.

Card or Dice Games

  1. Gin Rummy is classic card game familiar to many seniors. In gin rummy each player uses their hand to form combinations of three or more cards, with the goal of organizing your hand first. Players take turns drawing new cards and discarding those that don’t fit. Points are awarded for the winning hand and for every uncombined card in your opponent’s hand.
  2. Old Maid requires a good poker face. In old maid, you take turns discarding cards in pairs as quickly as you can until one person is left holding the unwanted ‘Old Maid’ card.
  3. UNO is a colourful card game where players work to get rid of their cards by matching them to the upturned card on top of the deck. When players are down to one card, they must declare ‘UNO’ or face a penalty.
  4. Yahtzee is a dice rolling game where players take turns to put five dice in a cup and roll them. You win this game by rolling the highest-scoring combinations possible.

Word Games

  1. Crosswords challenge the brain and can be easily enjoyed as a shared group activity. Call out clues and describe the number of spaces, then brainstorm possible answers. Free daily crossword puzzles are available in many newspapers and downloadable online. You can also find inexpensive books of crosswords at the dollar store, grocery store, or bookstore.2.
  2. Hangman is a simple pen-and-paper game played with a partner. One player thinks of a word, phrase, or sentence and the other(s) tries to guess it by suggesting letters or numbers within a certain number of guesses. Each wrong guess brings your little stick figure closer to danger, so guess carefully!
  3. Word Searches hide words and phrases within a block of letters. Similar to crosswords, the hidden words are often categorized by different themes. Work together to find and mark words written backwards and forwards in horizontal, vertical, or diagonal patterns.

Number and Memory Games

  1. Sudoku puzzles are little number puzzles where players must complete a grid of numbers so that each row, column and sub-grid contains a number from one to nine – but that number appears only once in that row, column or sub-grid. Difficulty ranges from beginner to “diabolical”, and number clues are given at the start.
  2. Card Matching is a great memory-building activity for everyone from children to seniors. Place a deck of cards or special picture cards face-down on a table. Players each take a turn turning over first one, and then a second card – looking at the pictures – and then returning the cards to their original face-down position. The goal is to remove the most matching pairs from the table. If a player uncovers a matched pair during their turn, that pair is removed from the table and added to the player’s pile. Players can watch their opponents turn over their cards and use their memory to find a match during their own turn.
  3. Flags of the World Quiz. If your loved one or patient is a geography whizz, challenge yourself to identify all the different flags of the world with this online or mobile app game
  4. The Tray Game. Similar to the card matching game, the tray game enhances and builds memory skills. To play, put a variety of different objects on a tray and give participants a limited period of time to look at everything. Then, cover the items with a cloth and see who can list and/or remember the location of most items in a set time limit.

Stimulating activities can be critical to a senior’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. As human beings – regardless of  age or ability – staying active and participating in things we enjoy brings satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Shared activities allow us to laugh deeply, participate in the moment, build trust in our support circle, and take a break from feeling frail or in pain. If you are unsure whether a senior is able to engage in an activity, talk to their doctor or healthcare team.

Recent Caregivers

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *